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The Devil's Footprints: A Novel

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven all his life yet still feels like an outsider. Married but rather distant from his wife, he reads in the local paper that a school friend, Moira Birnie, has killed herself and her two sons by setting their car on fire; but she has spared her 14-year-old daughter Hazel. Michael uneasily recalls his past connections to Moira. As teenag ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Nan A. Talese (first published March 1st 2007)
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„Etwas Besseres als den Tod findest du überall“, so lehren uns die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, aber kaum ist die letzte Silbe des Märchens verklungen und Mutter hat den Buchdeckel geschlossen, da stehen wir schon von Zweifeln umringt: wann war das Leben das letzte Mal so einfach, wann auf einen so griffigen Nenner zu bringen; sind Märchen vielleicht „nur“ die kleinen Geschwister der Lyrik, die eigene Mittel hat, schwer Fassbares begreiflich zu machen, der Komplexität des Lebens gerechter zu werden, ...more
Wie bei Banvilles erstem Roman, dem Haus der Stummen, hatte ich hier manchmal den Eindruck, dass Müßiggang, ermöglicht durch einen gewissen Wohlstand, die Menschen auf dumme Gedanken bringt. Die Hauptfigur, ein junger Mann, lebt abseits eines kleinen schottischen Ortes, direkt am Meer, in einem größeren Haus. Während er über den Selbstmord einer Jugendliebe grübelt, von dem er aus der Zeitung und von seiner Haushälterin erfährt, erinnert er sich an einen tödlich verlaufenden Konflikt mit einem S ...more
3.7 stars to be accurate. I liked the writing, precise and poetic (good on weather, birds, limepits, bullies, villagers and houses). I liked the 'descent into madness', I liked the way the writer withheld information until just the right moment, keeping you hooked. But the plot seemed a bit of a mish-mash of various other books I'd read, mainly 'Lolita' (acknowledged). But a nice afternoon read (about 200 pages)...
Michelle Greenwood
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I should have loved this book, and I'm not really sure why I didn't. The writing's excellent; it's the kind of dark psychological tale that normally appeals to me; it's even set in Scotland, the country of my birth -- "my territory", in other words.* And yet somehow, except at intervals, I simply couldn't immerse myself in it.

Michael Gardiner is stuck in a heartless marriage in the family home his parents bought to get away from the natives of Coldhaven, who mindlessly, motivelessly and implacab
Although John Burnside is a prolific and award-winning writer (he is one of only two poets to have been awarded both the T.S. Eliot and Forward Poetry prizes for his collection, Black Cat Bone and in addition to over a dozen volumes of poetry he has written non-fiction, novels and a screenplay), The Devil’s Footprints is my first encounter with him.

Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven, a seaside town in northern Scotland, his whole life. His parents were distant, creative people: his father a
Very enjoyable book, found by chance on a bargain table at the local bookshop. Burnside's style is sparse but poetic; I liked it. The story is interesting and doesn't follow the rules of a bestseller - there is no major climax towards which everything builds up. The protagonist looks back on the past with feelings of regret. The lasting impression is that nothing has been resolved but life must go on.
Very unusual, I thought. Growing up an only child of a couple seen as interlopers in the bleak, picturesque,and also threatening environment of a remote Scottish fishing village, the narrator's eventual response to an unreconcilable situation - foreshadowed by extreme events which are never in any real way resolved, is described in language that is concise and emotive in description, but never heavy to read. The result is subtly convincing, considering what actually occurs. I've noticed reviews ...more
I'd give this one 3 1/2 if I could -- parts of it had the promise of greatness. Crisp sharp writing that turns an unexpected corner and makes you go, wow. But there were moments of waxing philosophical that just didn't work, and odd plot inconistencies that marred the careful tightness of the book.
Ernest Junius
Jun 01, 2015 Ernest Junius rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art graduates
Shelves: tragedy
If you asked me about Burnside's writing I'd give you 5 stars.

I'm not sure about the story. Not sure that I like it; not sure that I find it interesting; not sure that I feel comfortable reading it; not sure that I actually learn anything from it.

Story aside (I want to talk more about the brighter side of the book: Burnside's writing style), I think the book are filled with strings of brilliant proses and syntaxes. Sometimes it could get boring though—not sure if it's the side effect of the stor
Perry Whitford
I always think it's always a good idea to read a novel by any author who is primarily a poet, a view which this compellingly written first person narrative of family secrets and tragic events in a remote, coastal Scottish town has done nothing to dispel.

The devil's footprints relate to an old folk story about cloven hooves in virgin snow, seemingly originating from the shore and discovered in the streets and across the rooftops of Coldhaven, the small fishing village where the action is set.

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This is the first of Burnside's novels that I've read, but definitely not the last. He is a magnificent writer, and there were a number of poignant scenes as well as some genuinely uncomfortable moments. It was an intriguing story and I read it in two sittings. The evocation of the landscape, light, birds was very atmospheric. The ending was quite perfect, with the protagonist, indeed the rest of the world, isolated and unconnected - nothing changed, nothing learnt.
This is an excellent book, although I don't think it quite comes up to the level of "The Glister." The central character takes a journey with a 15 yr old girl whose mother has recently set fire to her own car and burned herself and her two younger children. This oldest girl, she left in the forest. Now, this girl may or may not be the principal character's daughter (most probably not) - but, as it turns out, she is simply manipulating the protagonist to get to where and with whom she wants to be ...more
Eliz Mananadhar
John Burnside is a terrific poet and a novelist. I haven't read his poems as yet (but I can tell they are wonderful), but have read three of his novels until now and they are all dark, dreary gems. In The Devil's Footprints, the narrator is a classic Burnside protagonist- lonely, serious and utterly dark. He is plagued by the miseries of his past and present. An existentialist novel in many ways, the narrator is besotted with a 14-year-old girl a la Humbert Humbert, who he believes doesn't reall ...more
Better the devil you know than the devil you don't

Opening: Long ago, in Coldhaven, a small fishing town on the east coast of Scotland, the people woke in the darkness of a mid-December morning to find, not only their homes were buried in one of those deeper, dreamlike snowfalls that only happen once or twice in a generation, but also something strange had happened while they slept, something they could only account for in rumours and stories that, being good, church-going folk, they were ashamed
Gary Homewood
Poetic exploration of landscape, small town prejudice, childhood, family and insanity.
Mardhatilllah adho
Ketika dendam terbalaskan, siapa sebenarnya yang harus disalahkan?
Heather Moss
Most of these stars are for Burnside's delicious writing style; I reveled in every sentence. The story was intriguing but I am not sure how much I believed it, ultimately. The protagonist keeps things couched so deeply inside himself that I suspect the change he makes at the end is not his ultimate epiphany. That's vague, I know, but I don't want to give anything away. Anyhow, I really did enjoy this novel. It was a very fast read and I look forward to reading more by Burnside, both fiction and ...more
Adam Nevill
A remarkable story of one man's emotional and psychological breakdown in a small grey Scottish town, via murder, abduction, alienation, separation ... All of the startling insights into the human condition, and a poet's deep scrutiny of landscape and memory, that you expect from Burnside's prose are also in place here. Reminded me of Nabokov's Lolita too; and Burnside is a novelist who writes about uncomfortable subjects without flinching. Sixth novel I have read by this author and they have all ...more
Eva Mitnick
A hapless man has a sort of inexplicable mid-life crisis involving a girl who might or might not be his daughter. The writing is just fine (the author is well-known as a poet) and there were some really intriguing sections, such as the narrator's relationship to his small town, but the plot failed to move me. 4 points for the writing, 2 points for the plot - average 3 points.
Starts out interestingly (reminded me of early Ian McEwan), but in the end seems to be a mish mash of events w/out any of it really coming together in the end. Unlike some others here, I found his writing to be over-blown, not beautiful (he is a poet first and foremost). Disappointing, and I won't be reading any of his others books.
Beautifully written and compelling story, fascinating characters... everything you want, all wrapped up in a neat package. Took all of one day to read, but still sticks with me; I guess that's what 'haunting' means.
Couldn't tell if the over-usage of commas was purposeful or not. Too many commas really bug me.

Other than that, it started off good but I think it got increasingly worse as the book progressed. Still ok though.
Jun 18, 2008 Ateran added it
Beautifully written, insightful and just a little bit twisted. It had some similarities and allusions to Lolita which I liked. The ending was a little anti-climatic but fit the overall tone of the book.
Tämä ei ollut vaan mun "juttu". Kirja ei ole huono, jotenkin sen englanti vaati ehkä likaa minusta tai sitten mulla ei nyt ole oikein innostusta tähän. Etsiskelen joskos löytyisi suomennettuna. Jäi kesken.
Short novel by poet John Burnside. Found it just a bit of a "mid-life crisis" tale rather than the existential angst the blurb made it out to be. Interesting rather than intriguing.
Titis Wardhana
Bikin alis berkerut2. Intinya sesibuk apa pun kita, selalu luangkan waktu buat anak, klo gak mau anaknya kayak si Michael ini, uda dewasa masih labil kayak ABG :P
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
Burnside can write some gorgeous sentences, and writes achingly beautiful descriptions of the outdoors and nature. But his storytelling skills just don't do it for me.
A surprisingly good book considering nothing much really happens. But the characterization and plotting keep it moving and draw you in.
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John Burnside is the author of nine collections of poetry and five works of fiction. Burnside has achieved wide critical acclaim, winning the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2000 for The Asylum Dance which was also shortlisted for the Forward and T. S. Eliot prizes. Born in Scotland, he moved away in 1965, returning to settle there in 1995. In the intervening period he worked as a factory hand, a labour ...more
More about John Burnside...
The Glister A Summer of Drowning The Dumb House Black Cat Bone: Poems A Lie About My Father: A Memoir

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